Getting in their strokes

Cheyenne Valade (left), Laci Powell and Jonna Porter show team spirit at the John Day Swim Team Invitational. The Eagle/Scott Mallory

JOHN DAY - A conversation with three local swimmers left a visitor to Gleason Pool with the impression that it takes brains and muscles to be competitive in a swim meet.

Jonna Porter, 14, Laci Powell, 12, both from John Day, and Cheyenne Valade, 14, from Canyon City, were at the pool Saturday and Sunday (July 31-Aug. 1) competing in the John Day Swim Team Invitational.

On Sunday, it was standing room only near the pool and outside the fence in the grandstands, as close to 300 swimmers battled during the two-day event.

A temporary tent city was set up on the grass to accommodate competitors from seven swim teams, including groups from Pendleton and La Grande.

It's muscles that make her fast in the backstroke, said Porter, whose favorite event is the individual medley, a combination of butterfly, breaststroke, backstroke and freestyle.

"I like it because you get to do all the strokes," Porter said.

For Powell, it's the butterfly that attracts her, because not only does it demand strength, but she has to think about it, too.

"It's complicated, have to figure it out, "Powell said. "I guess I like it because it's fast and I'm almost good at it."

Porter also plays point guard in basketball, is a hitter in volleyball and was a District 3 all-star softball player this year at second base.

In school, she likes math.

"Long division," she said. "I like to solve problems."

Porter and Powell will attend Mt. Vernon Middle School in the fall. Valade will be a Freshman at Grant Union High School.

Her last name is French, but Valade doesn't speak the language, although her favorite subject is language arts. She plans to study Spanish in high school.

"Spanish is easier than English, more straight forward," Valade said.

A voracious reader, Valade recently finished "The Island of Dr. Moreau" by H.G. Wells.

"I liked it, but the old usage of English was confusing," she said.

Valade is always reading something, said her mother, Lisa Valade, who was at the pool supporting her daughter and her team.

Valade plans to play volleyball and swim in high school, but she's giving up basketball, which she's played for the past four years.

Instead of hitting the hardwood as a point guard, Valade wants to take her moves to the Grant Union dance team, which competes in jazz and hip-hop, in group choreography and solo routines, against other schools.

Valade has been dancing "since forever," she said.

"She's graceful when dancing," her mother said, "just not when she's walking."

There are 14 dancers on the Grant Union team, all girls.

"It could be coed, but it won't be because guys don't want to do it," Valade said.

In the pool, Valade placed third in 50-yard freestyle and along with Bree Myers, Brenna Caughlin and Natasha Holmstrom was part of a 200-yard freestyle relay team that missed the 18-and-under pool record by four seconds.

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